Graham Elliot Bistro | West Loop/Fulton Market | Contemporary/Regional | Restaurant
Pork + watermelon + okra

Pork + watermelon + okra

Alison Green

Graham Elliot's sole remaining Chicago restaurant; chef Jacob Saben departed in March 2014.

Our Review

The name of the guy in charge of the cooking at Graham Elliot Bistro is Jacob Saben, and if you haven't heard much about him it's because you rarely hear much about any of the talent behind Elliot's name. Saben's been given the task of presenting an ultimately straightforward menu of appetizers, pastas, and entrees supposedly incorporating no more than three ingredients each, all listed on the vinyl menu in terse, three-word formulas (an allusion to rock-and-roll chord progressions?). Wait, so there's only three ingredients in the "pork + watermelon + okra"? That's nonsense, of course, and while the plate's presentation is necessarily straightforward—coins of pork tenderloin strewn with cubes of luminous red fruit, creamy grits, dollops of chimichurri, and breaded and deep-fried okra—it's a good entree, every element executed well and in balance with the others. The dish typifies much of what's on Saben's menu: a lemony mussel and pea shoot risotto, a thick tangle of vivid green linguine with plump little clams, a cool shrimp and avocado salad with tangy, creamy dressing garnished with Thai basil. These dishes were so buoyant they're hard to reconcile with a couple of terrific flops—oversalted shaved asparagus, a particularly pretty heirloom tomato wedge that tasted like a swollen bath sponge. Such missteps make the cost, which tops out in the low $20s for entrees, a little hard to swallow, particularly when accounting for $12 cocktails that, like the desserts, miss just as often as they hit. There are some nicely challenging sippers—the Sarawak sling, made from mildly sweet Old Tom gin and garnished with smoked pineapple, to name one. But a tiki-like rum and coconut riff, Ghostface-Killa, tastes like iced suntan lotion. Read the full review >>

Mike Sula

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